Peace there for us all – if we make time to find it
I can remember the days before Sunday trading came into force. No thoughts about shopping, just a time to enjoy family without the need to spend money.
Fast forward to 2018 when we can shop at anytime, anywhere. Throw Christmas into the mix and those days of rest are no more. And as the pressure to shop ramps up, I’m beginning to think Sunday trading is not such a great idea.
It encourages materialism and takes away mindfulness – the opportunity to see another part of our world that doesn’t involve money. I was in the States a year ago. Some of the shops stayed open 24/7. There was no escaping the huge consumer greed, egged on by retailers and it was sickening.
I write this in the middle of Black Friday which, it seems, has turned into Black Week. People rush out madly to buy things they think they need often from supply chains that are less than ideal. It is capitalism at its worst.
Just as I’m vowing not to get caught up in the tsunami of first world “must have’s” I get inundated with a forest of brochures through the post tempting me to buy stuff that will be in a charity shop or dustbin within a month.
Do I really need a multitool comb shaped like a hedgehog that will be a bottle opener, screw driver, phone stand wrench, money clip and chip clip to secure bags? Or a tool kit in pink? Or an attachment on my phone that will guarantee good selfies with my cat? The list goes on and again makes me feel nauseous.
The pressure to spend money, especially round Christmas is grim and I want to escape to a remote cottage in the Hebrides with Hubs, the kids and a box of food. But it’s not to be. And to my disdain, I find myself buying from Amazon because I can’t bear the thought of being swept up in the mayhem of shopping and queuing.
Then I’m overcome with guilt about not supporting the high street and, holding my nose, dive in and risk being trampled by people who will be contributing to next year’s landfill with their “essential” buys.
It’s not the way to shop. Gifts should be bought with love and thoughts, not with duty and this year I’m really trying to turn that round. I’m fast becoming a convert of “No Spend” Friday where for 24 hours you detox from buying stuff.
The creeping commercialisation doesn’t sit well with me. It’s simply not possible to read about starving people in war-torn begrudgingly gave way to dawn. The train sped serenely towards the coast with low sun highlighting pockets of mist and playing through trees, casting long shadows across green Devon hills. A swift change at St David’s, for the crowded small train up to Exeter Central, completes the commute.
There follows a pleasant, brisk walk along Queen Street. A bit further along and, rounding a corner, is our company’s newspaper office. Entering the door, ascending to the office on the first floor, and the daily bombardment of computer training begins.
But all good things... countries, or walk past homeless people on a chill December night and then be utterly profligate, buying something that will provide instant gratification and be forgotten in a year.
Even the buying of the goods can be a farce. The consumer publication “Which” is scathing about reviews on line. Searching out and believing a perfect stranger’s validation of an item is now the norm. Their investigation team discovered that 97% use customer reviews before buying something. And 37% are disappointed with items that had excellent online reviews.
The practice of companies paying for positive reviews is widespread and 87,000 Facebook users are in groups created to write fake reviews in exchange for money. So buying Christmas presents can be fraught with dishonesty.
Buying charity Christmas cards is great but wouldn’t it be even better if the Post Office donated half the revenue for a set number of stamps per person and gave the funds to charity? I’m sure more people would send cards knowing they were doing some good.
If I’m sounding Bah Humbug about the Season of Goodwill, I guess it’s true. Going off to the Hebrides is an unlikely scenario for me, but there are other ways that can bring back the joy of Christmas. Helping out with the Salvation Army or other charities that have to deal with unprecedented numbers of homeless people at Christmas is just one way to give – and it doesn’t cost a penny. Or buy a specific item for a cause or a person who would really benefit. Something tangible that will not be subject to grey areas of admin costs or middle men.
My eldest son and his wife are doing just this. They don’t want presents. Instead they want the money to buy some equipment to go towards Cann Bridge Special School in Plymouth. Cann Bridge looks after young disabled children and work tirelessly to provide them with specialist equipment. It relies heavily on voluntary donations to help the pupils.
I’m thinking of asking for the same gift because I really don’t need a pink tool kit or another jumper and I’m sure the cat won’t care two hoots about missing out on a selfie. The time I’m not chasing round shops can be used more meaningfully – giving me space to reflect perhaps on the real meaning of Christmas and the sense of Peace that is there for us all – if only we make time to find it.
Buying charity Christmas cards is great but wouldn’t it be even better if the Post Office donated half the revenue for a set number of stamps per person to charity? I’m sure more people would send cards knowing they were doing some good